In an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, experts are urging people around the world to practice social distancing. Large gatherings have been cancelled; nursing homes are restricting visitors.

"We're saying that social distancing is the only thing that we know of that has the potential to blunt the curve of this pandemic," says Nasia Safdar, the medical director of infection control and prevention at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Health.

So how do we navigate the peer-to-peer transactions of the sharing economy?

If you can avoid it completely, that would be best at this time, according to experts including Safdar.

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"What we're asking people to do is to really be intentional about what's essential, what's nonessential. Really think about, to the extent possible, can they achieve social distancing?" she says. "It may not be possible in every instance and every time, but people should at least be thinking about it."

Consider what travel and lifestyle activities are absolutely necessary, as going about your normal routine can be detrimental during a pandemic.


"Every decision that you make has some intended and some unintended consequences," adds Safdar.

When sharing economy apps prove essential, here's how to use them with the safety of yourself, others and social distancing in mind.


Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing apps like Uber are continuing to operate during the coronavirus outbreak. The companies claim to be closely monitoring the situation and taking some steps to educate their riders and employees about the virus.

Those measures aside, riders shouldn't use these apps as they did before the pandemic. Safdar recommends limiting ride-sharing to situations when it's absolutely necessary.

"If you were constrained by your transportation options, and this is the only way that you can manage your work and your life, then I think that's one thing," she says.

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After your ride, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for proper hand-washing, which Safdar says is the main way to prevent illness if you take an Uber.

For rental cars - reserved peer-to-peer or the traditional way - Safdar recommends cleaning any surfaces you'll be touching, like the seats and the steering wheel, with a disinfectant before driving.


Home-sharing

Before you go ahead with your house-sharing reservation, check the current coronavirus outbreak status in the booking's destination.

The Airbnb website has a page dedicated to coronavirus resources for hosts and guests, including links to travel advisories and local governments' dedicated coronavirus information.

If you decide to check in to your Airbnb as scheduled, Safdar recommends wiping down common surfaces with disinfecting wipes and assessing whether the place has been properly cleaned before you arrived.

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"I wouldn't be overly concerned about the environment [of an Airbnb] unless you see obvious evidence that it hasn't been cleaned first," she says.

Consider cleaning the other items you've brought with you into the rental. Safdar says that even independent of this pandemic, we should be disinfecting everyday objects, like our phones, computers, and apparel (eg winter coats), that are usually overlooked.

If you choose to cancel, note that Airbnb has updated its policy in the wake of the pandemic.

"We are now offering Guests full refunds and Hosts no charge cancellations for reservations booked on or before March 14th with a check in date of April 14th or earlier," the Airbnb website reads. "Please note this policy will not cover any new bookings."

There are a number of stipulations tied to the cancellation policy, and your refund will depend on when you made your reservation. Check with Airbnb to see what the company will offer you.


Public scooters and bikes

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Biking or taking an e-scooter can be a good alternative to ride-sharing, since you'll be travelling solo, not having to worry about social distancing from a driver.

Be mindful that e-scooter or e-bike services have been touched by countless others, and the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for days. Clean the equipment you'll touch before starting your trip.

"I would say wipe down the handlebars and the seat," Safdar says.

Once you've reached your final destination, wash your hands to follow Safdar's aggressive hand hygiene advice.


Food and goods deliveries

Ordering food can be a nice way to support local businesses. Safdar says that as long as food is cooked and covered, you shouldn't be concerned about your takeout.

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As for accepting the delivery itself, you should clean cutlery before use and, once again, wash your hands before and after eating.

And just as Safdar recommends wiping down "high-touch" surfaces of your rented Airbnb or scooter, you should wipe down the outside of your delivery bag before opening it. Although experts say there's never "zero risk" of contracting coronavirus from touching a delivered package, it's very unlikely.

Safdar says that it's not necessary to have food deliveries left outside your door unless you're concerned about your own health status. If you're self-quarantining because you may have been exposed to the virus, or are currently sick, then it's in the best interest of the delivery person to avoid all contact.